HC Deb 23 April 1934 vol 288 cc1465-89

Sub-section (2) of Section four of the Unemployment Insurance Act 1930, shall have effect as though the following were added at the end thereof:


(d) employment by an employer who is not in working agreement with the claimant's trade union;

Provided that an employer shall be deemed to have offered less favourable conditions if he does not comply with the terms of any agreement recognised by associations of employers and of employés in the same trade or industry or, failing any such agreement, does not observe the conditions generally recognised in the district by good employers.—[Mr. Lawson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

7.33 p.m.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Clause deals with the question of disputes. It is a matter which for years has claimed attention, and as a matter of fact various Parliaments have held that there was a good deal in the question of disputes to call for very serious consideration. In the earlier Acts the operation was automatic. If there was a dispute automatically payment of benefit was ruled out. Then I believe there was a Section which dealt with wages when there was a sort of area grievance. When the employer was seeking to get past what was a national agreement the men were granted unemployment benefit. Now we want definitely to narrow the scope of the principle, because it has been found in practice that agreements have been subtilely avoided. The Minister of Labour has always stated that he is it strong supporter of trade unionism, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry has expressed regret that collective bargaining was not carried out on a much larger scale. Everyone who knows anything about modern industry knows that there is wisdom in that saying. What we want to do in this new Clause is to make it impossible for employers to break through agreements and seek to out-manoeuvre other employers in the same industry.

7.35 p.m.


I have followed very carefully what the hon. Member has said, but I think he is speaking from the wrong brief. I think his speech relates to a new Clause which appears earlier on the Paper and was not moved. The hon. Member has spoken of a Section which appeared in earlier legislation. A Section very much like a Clause which is on the Paper but has not been moved, was in earlier legislation, but was repealed. The new Clause that he is now moving has never been in earlier legislation and is quite new. I was hoping the hon. Member would explain the reason for the new Clause in order to enable me to reply.

7.36 p.m.


I think I was on solid ground when I said that this Clause embodies practically the same principle as that in other sections in previous legislation. It is a principle that has been to some extent accepted by the Ministry of Labour. The proviso states: Provided that an employer shall be deemed to have offered less favourable conditions if he does not comply with the terms of any agreement reorganised by associations of employers and of employees in the same trade or industry or, failing any such agreement, does not observe the conditions generally recognised in the district by good employers. That proviso is merely the principle of the Fair Wages Clause, which is operated by various Government Departments. I do not see how there can be any objection to accepting & principle of that kind. The first part of the Clause definitely refers to the terms of any agreement. I should think that if workmen have to be subjected to the dispute Clauses there is good reason for asking that they should be safeguarded by a Clause of this kind. It is in line with all experience in modern industry, particularly where collective agreements operate. In fact the Ministry of Labour is about to give affect to its opinions on the same lines as this Clause in connection with collective agreements in Lancashire, and I shall be in the position of having to congratulate the Ministry when that has been done. The Clause asks that men shall not be penalised where there is a dispute in which the employers seek to evade agreements. I hope the Minister will give very sympathetic consideration to the proposal, which is not new and not revolutionary.

7.38 p.m.


I wish to support the new Clause. The Parliamentary Secretary has stated that the new Clause is slightly different from anything that has been in any previous Act dealing with Unemployment Insurance. I would remind him that the principle is almost the same as that in the 1924 Act. It is true that the Section of the 1924 Act was repealed, I believe by the 1927 Act. It was inserted in the 1924 Act because a good many disputes were taking place in which Section 8 of the 1920 Act was working very adversely against the workers. In 1924 Parliament thought that wherever men were affected in a trade dispute by the employers breaking an agreement between the employers association and the trade union, the workmen should not be debarred from receiving unemployment benefit. It has often been said that Parliament can make laws and that those who sit in a judicial capacity can drive a coach and horses through them. We found that when we had a case under the 1924 Act which went to the Umpire. Suppose that a colliery company is attempting to get a reduction, and when negotiations break down and the men are thrown out of work a case goes to the Umpire. The Umpire rules that a price list is a local agreement that does not come within the Section of the 1924 Act. That has left the position something like this: If a colliery company asked for 4d. or 6d. a ton off the price list and men were thrown out of work, and the Umpire deemed that to be a trade dispute, no unemployment insurance benefit was paid at all, but if the employers sought to pay 31 per cent. instead of 32 per cent., and the men were thrown out of work, in that case they would receive, and in some cases did receive, unemployment benefit.

It is true that in 1927 Parliament repealed that Section. What has been the position since? There have been innumerable disputes in the mining industry in connection with which men have been refused benefit because it has been held that those disputes came within Section 8 of the 1920 Act. In my opinion in those cases the men ought to have received benefit. In some cases employers of labour through colliery managers have sought reductions of wages which they knew were unjustified. They have even threatened that if the men did not agree they would do their best to prevent the men getting benefit, by having the dispute defined as a trade dispute within the meaning of the Act.

Here is an opportunity of trying to restore the law on this point to what it was in 1924. Anybody with experience in trade union negotiations knows what is taking place. In my constituency there is a pit in which work has been resumed after a 26 weeks' stoppage which was defined as a trade dispute. Consequently no unemployment benefit is being paid to any of the workers, except certain people who were deemed to be outside the dispute. Many of these men have gone back to work with the feeling that Unemployment Insurance legislation is weighted in favour of the employer. There ought to be in this Bill a Clause dealing with such a position as that. In Lancashire we hope the Government will succeed in getting a ratification of their proposals to prevent any employer from under-cutting the employers' organisation. We hope that many hon. Members opposite who have knowledge of that matter will give this new Clause their consideration. The clear intention of Parliament in the 1920 Act was to hold the balance evenly between the two sides favouring neither the employer nor the worker. If an employer is seeking wages or conditions below those prevailing in the same industry and if a dispute takes place and men are thrown out of work, that ought not to be deemed a trade dispute within the terms of Section 8 of the 1920 Act. I hope that hon. Members in all parts of the Committee will see their way to support the new Clause.

7.48 p.m.


I am in some difficulty about the proposed new Clause. I believe that there is a genuine point of grievance in the minds of a great many trade unionists as to this matter, and yet I believe that this hew Clause, as drafted and presented to us, would not obtain the effect desired. Furthermore, the body who would be entrusted with the task of deciding all technical points in these trade disputes would be the court of referees which was not intended for any such purpose. The history of this question is a very simple but a rather interesting one. A provision of this kind was introduced in the 1924 Act. It was first proposed by a private Member in Committee and was defeated. It was then accepted on the Report stage, but, if the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) will look up the remarks made by Mr. Tom Shaw on that occasion, he may be surprised to find that Mr. Shaw was not at all certain as to how it would work in practice. On the recommendation of the Blanesburgh Committee it was omitted from the 1927 Act. It was not reincluded in the Act passed by the late Labour Government in 1930, and in the Report of the Royal Commission there is no recommendation at all that it should be reincluded.

Yet there is no doubt about the fact that on certain occasions some employers will start reductions of wages with the result that there will be stoppages of work, and benefit will be withheld from men for that reason. Therefore, I would like to see some provision included in this Measure to remedy such a state of things. Nobody wants to see cases of that kind arising. But, as I have pointed out, under this Clause it is the court of referees which is to decide to whom a stoppage is due. Is that really a job for the court of referees? Furthermore, would it not be possible under this Clause for an employer to break away from his employers federation and to be at liberty then to reduce his wages and cause a dispute, as the result of which the men would not be entitled to benefit, while the employer would have acted legally? It strikes me that the machinery of the proposed new Clause is the wrong machinery for this purpose. I disagree with the hon. Members who have put it forward in the method which they propose to remedy what is undoubtedly a grievance.

7.51 p.m.


The proposed new Clause raises a matter of real importance at the present moment. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) in instancing disputes in the coal industry, is on a subject of which I have a little knowledge but I would prefer to approach this question from the angle of another important and allied industry, namely, the steel industry. The steel industry has just commenced a much happier era, so far as employment and the general improvement of the industry is concerned. That is largely because it has undertaken a sweeping reorganisation—I do not like the word "rationalisation"—which has resulted in the merging and grouping of a great many firms. We are faced to-day with a situation which is very different from that existing in 1920 when the Act to which the hon. Member referred was passed into law. If only for that reason, there is considerable point in the argument that something should be done to protect the insured contributor from anything which could be interpreted as unfair pressure in matters of this kind.

We are now engaged in consolidating and revising the whole system of Unemployment Insurance. I am hopeful that industrial relations in this country are about to enter upon a happier phase. I hope the recovery of the country, which has now definitely commenced, may not be retarded by serious industrial disputes from which no one suffers more than the worker. I am anxious that we should devise machinery for avoiding such disputes. Therefore, while I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Crossley) that this Clause is scarcely drafted in the right way to achieve that desirable end yet I hope the Government will give serious consideration to devising machinery which will prevent the victimisation or undue pressure of workers in any industry, during this time of recovery, should any dispute occur. Perhaps the Government between now and the Report stage will give consideration to finding a form of words which would accomplish the real intention of the proposed new Clause.

7.54 p.m.


This subject of disqualification in respect of trade disputes is one of the most difficult with which we have to deal in unemployment insurance legislation. It is true, as the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has said, that a Clause analogous to the proposed new Clause was inserted in the Act of 1924, but a person who has, as everyone will agree, a great deal of practical knowledge and experience in these matters, namely, Mr. Tom Shaw, the then Minister of Labour, viewed the insertion of that Clause—which did not appear in the first draft of the Measure—with great misgiving and expressed doubt as to its results. We had three years experience of the working of the Clause and the Blanesburgh Committee, on which Miss Bondfield served, unanimously recommended that the Clause should be omitted and it was omitted in the Act of 1927. I do not wish to go back on anything I have said in the past regarding the desirability of collective agreements. I believe there is general agreement on that point but I venture to suggest to the Committee that this new Clause is not the best way of getting what we all desire.

The view of the Government is that industrial agreements should carry their own sanctions and that the statutory authorities under the Unemployment Insurance Acts should not be put into what has always proved to be the invidious position of having to intervene in and decide upon the merits of industrial disputes. We think that the statutory authorities should, as far as possible, remain outside these disputes in order that their impartiality may not be called in question. We should much prefer to see other arrangements made for the settling of these disputes. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street mentioned that we were shortly to introduce a Bill dealing with one portion of the cotton industry. I cannot of course anticipate the provisions of that Bill, but I hope when the hon. Member sees its terms he will agree that we have succeeded in devising for this very problem an appropriate remedy which would not involve the difficulties attaching to this new Clause.

This new Clause is not in the same form as the provision in the Act of 1924, and I think that when hon. Members opposite think over in detail what its results would be, they must agree that as it stands the new Clause would not work. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), who has a more detailed knowledge of colliery conditions than I have, said he was anxious to see that men were not forced by the withdrawal of benefit into accepting conditions from one employer which were less favourable than conditions ordinarily prevalent in the district. In Sub-section (2) of Section 4 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1330, which the hon. Member's own party carried through, it is provided that a man cannot be penalised for refusing employment in his usual occupation in the district where he was last ordinarily employed at a rate of wage lower or on conditions less favourable than those which he might reasonably have expected to obtain, having regard to those which he habitually obtained in his usual occupation in that district or would have obtained had he continued to be so employed. That is the law for which my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street was responsible. It meets the point of the hon. Member for Normanton to the extent of covering the case where an individual employer is endeavouring to get men to work for less favourable rates than those in the district. He may quite well say that it does not meet the case where the whole of the employers in a big district do this, nor would the new Clause that he suggests, and that is really the defect of the Clause.

It has two other practical difficulties. Let us assume, for example, that a man has been out of work for a long time in Durham and has been trained as a motor mechanic, say, at Wallsend. This Clause would enable him to refuse to take a job with Fords on the ground that the Miners' Federation in Durham, of which he was a member, had no agreement with the Ford Motor Works at Dagenham. Obviously that is not one of the objects of the hon. Members opposite. It would also enable a member of any one union, where there were two rival unions—a case that is not unknown—and where one of them had an agreement with their employer, to refuse to accept a job with that employer merely because he had an agreement with the rival union, and still draw benefit. I could enlarge the list of examples, but I have every sympathy with the object of the Clause. I believe that when hon. Members opposite see the Bill that we are going, I hope, to introduce shortly, they will realise that we have gone a very long way to find a satisfactory alternative to this procedure. I hope, therefore, they will not press this new Clause to a Division.

8.3 p.m.


I have listened with great interest to the Parliamentary Secretary's illustrations as to how a person could be disqualified under the proposed new Clause, and I presume, judging by what he said, that he had not exhausted the possibilities of illustration, but that would be equally true of nearly everything else that we try to do. The facts are that in the general experience of the application of the present position, a number of workmen are so disqualified, and appeals to courts of referees and to umpires have to be lodged, at great cost in money and time, in order to establish a workman's right to benefit. I was very glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that the Government have every sympathy with the object of the Clause, and I should have thought, therefore, it would have been possible to employ some language that would have made it as general as possible and as specific as desirable without making it too cumbersome. There are, in the application of trade union practice, a number of people who come into an in-nothing, so far as helping to build updustry quite fresh, who have done its general character, standards of employment, rates of wages, and so on, are concerned, who have been fortunate enough perhaps to have had some money left them with which to start an industry, and who, regardless of the whole lifetime experience of those who have been employed in the industry, attempt to violate the conditions that have been established in it. It is with a view to trying to give some recognition to the great cost in money, time and labour, and to the patience and experience that have helped to build up the standard codes in an industry, that we are desirous of inserting some such Clause as this.

This country is the richest in the world in having built up codes of labour with regard to rates of wages, hours of employment, and general conditions, and there is hardly any industry in this country that has not got some established form of organisation under which employers and workpeople meet together periodically, tabulate their claims, and usually by negotiation are able to establish some standard of economic relationship that shall exist in the industry. The hon. Member who preceded the Parliamentary Secretary said he hoped that with the present indicated revival in industry we should have the best of relationships possible between employers and employed, and I am sure we are all desirous of that, but while we have a Fair Wages Clause in this House, which is not, in my opinion, up to date—it is not a subject for Debate now, but we shall try to make it more up to date at a subsequent date—even that Clause is not being observed in a number of places, and the illustration of a Durham miner trained as a mechanic at Wallsend and going to Dagenham is not a correct illustration. It is not so much a question of an agreement with the Miners' Federation, as it is that the individual working in that particular industry would have subscribed to the conditions that were negotiated for the general conduct of that industry.


I was dealing with the words of the new Clause, and they are definitely open to the construction that I put upon them.


My point is the desirability of encouraging, recognising, and stabilising, as far as practicable, the arrangements that are existing between workpeople and their employers in regard to the ordinary conduct of industry, and there are so many of them that are violated. Organisations spend thousands and thousands of pounds, and if I were to say that our building industry spends anything between £60,000 and £70,000 a year in sending men round to see that agreements which have been negotiated are observed, I should be stating what is less than the actual cost on the workpeople's side, let alone on the employers' side. They are constantly coming into contact with violations of conditions that have been set up. I was hoping that when the Parliamentary Secretary expressed sympathy with the new Clause, something would be done to give encouragement to employers and to workpeople on these lines and discouragement to those who do not observe agreements and codes that have been arrived at.

The building industry is a very old industry—next, I suppose, to agriculture—and it is an industry that has been more responsible for civilisation, I imagine, than almost any other industry. But the number of people who come into that industry and think they can violate the hours of labour, the overtime conditions, and so on, and even the question of apprentices, is astonishing. They say, "We do not want to be bound by the rules set up by this group of people. Let us go on our own. We want to work after dark, and we want to help the country." They say that, though of course their main object is to help themselves. A trade unionist, providing he wants to work for such an employer, would immediately come into conflict with his union, and that union, recognising the need for maintaining standards of decency, would impose a penalty on him if he failed to observe its conditions. On the other hand, if he failed to work upon the particular job, he would be disqualified for benefit. I know there is no disqualification if a trade dispute exists, but on these other things many violations can take place, and workpeople desirous of honouring their agreements and their association with their organisation, and not responding to the invitation of employers who are either too mean or not sufficiently interested to take part in their own organisations and to assist in framing a code of labour conditions, are immediately disqualified.

I hope the Ministry will give another look at this matter. Our experience has been that it has been very costly in appeals to referees and umpires, and we would have regarded this Clause as being so fair, so right, and proper that it should have received an immediate blessing from the Ministry. I do not know what the Clause indicated by the Parliamentary Secretary in the new Bill will be, but I hope the Minister will give another look at this matter and see if it is not possible either to alter the words of our Clause or to draw up a fresh Clause that would give practical effect to our mutual desire to respect, regard, stabilise, and encourage honest agreements that have been arrived at between workpeople and their employers.

8.12 p.m.


Why is it impossible, in view of the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary has apparently already arrived at a formula which is satisfactory in respect to the cotton industry, to let us have the benefit of a similar formula for the purpose of carrying into effect what is intended by the proposed new Clause now under discussion? We all know the difficulties in the way of wording Amendments, but in this instance there is much to be said for the new Clause, apart from any irregularities that may exist in its actual wording. In these circumstances, in view of the fact too that the Parliamentary Secretary has intimated that he agrees with the contentions that have been raised, and in view particularly of the fact mentioned by the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) that tremendous sums of money are spent in order that justice may be done in respect of people who would come within the purview of such a Clause, may I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he will not give us an assurance that he will at a later stage produce some Amendment which will meet the difficulties that have been raised in this debate? I think we can all say that we agree that something should be done in this matter, but we do not know what is coming in the Cotton Bill. It may be that it will be an excellent precedent for something to be contained in this Bill, and in those circumstances I cannot see why we should not have the advantage of knowing now what type of Amendment is to be inserted so as to provide for the points that have been raised in this discussion.

8.14 p.m.


I would like to press the appeal that has been made to the Parliamentary Secretary, because this is a very serious affair in so far as engineering is concerned. But before I mention engineers I might advance further points with regard to the building industry, because it is more serious than the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) has stated. In the steelworks it is a very serious matter indeed, because you have bricklayers who have worked at nothing else but building smelting furnaces, which is a very hot job that generally devolves on men who have practically given their lives to this business. Just at the moment, in quite a number of steelworks, there is a great amount of unemployment, and those men are out.

According to the Government they may be back at work at any time, because we are round the corner now and are going to be busy, particularly in the key industries—so we are told by the highest authorities. If the new Clause is not accepted, the Employment Exchange manager will have power to send that type of man, who has always been in the habit of working on hot inside jobs to housing schemes. The man I have in mind is about 50 years of age and there is a number of them in every steel works. They simply cannot go out on to housing schemes. We want the Minister to remember that, although they are unemployed, they are free men and have a right to some consideration instead of being driven to any job no matter how onerous or distasteful.

The engineers will be hit very badly if the new Clause is not inserted. Take the shipyard and marine engineers of Newcastle, for instance. A great number of them are unemployed. They have worked at practically nothing but marine engineering; they are a distinct class and have a certain standard of life and wages which is higher than that of the mechanic employed about the mines. The work at the mines is distasteful to them and they detest the idea of having to be mine mechanics. Some of them will face anything except face such a job because it is distasteful and means a reduction in wages of about 5s. a week. We should have some regard for these men and not play a high-handed part with them because they happen to be unemployed. They have rendered yeoman service to the country, and the Government should not condemn them just because of the unique circumstances of unemployment. It is not their fault that they are unemployed. They are not criminals, but victims, and they ought to be treated with justice and respect.

The same holds good with the engineers in Cardiff, Swansea and Bristol; they have never worked at anything but repairs. Such men must be highly skilled and they have a special rate of wages from 15s. to £1 a week more than if they worked at the mines in Wales. Apart from the reduction of wages which it means, a job at the mines is abhorred by these men. They have never been trained for the job. The workers for whom we are appealing are our fellow countrymen. We are appealing for the workers in general, who have a feeling that they have rights and a bit of manhood left in them, and they still claim the right to say "No" when sent to a particular job. They should not be reduced to the position of taking any job. They still have independence of mind, a quality which is supposed to be the outstanding characteristic of the British race. The conditions of the times are gradually crushing that out. It is to the interest of the Government and the country to safeguard that type of man.

We want to give the unemployed men the rights that they used to have when they were looking for a job—the right to say that they did not want it. We are not appealing for foreigners. We are appealing for the men who have rendered their quota to make this country what it is. Some say it is the richest country on which the sun ever shone—the mightiest and the greatest. We are appealing for men who have struggled and strived in their work. This Amendment will affect the best type of worker. He may have given service to the country, as a workman, for 30 years. If he had given all those years' service in the Army or the Navy he would receive a pension. But he has been a workman in the workshops. He is the type of individual who has made all things possible, who has produced everything, who has made it possible for the civil servants and teachers and the men of the Army and the Navy and all the others to get pensions. The worker is the producer of all. All wealth is produced by labour, and whoever enjoys wealth without working for it is stealing the bread of the worker. That is the type of man for whom we are appealing here.

I know personally many men who will be badly hit by this legislation. They are independent men, and when Employment Exchanges were first started they declined to go to them; but I have seen those men so crushed that they were glad to go to the Employment Exchange, and I have seen them crushed further until they were glad to go to the public assistance committee for help. Now a further screw is being put on that decent type of worker. All his life he has followed a particular occupation, and is not fitted for any other occupation, but the Government are giving power to the manager of an Employment Exchange to say to that man, "You are to have no say where you go—no matter whether it is a trade union shop or not, no matter what difficulties you will be up against with your trade union, no matter whether this job will be bad for your health, no matter what the distance is and the expenses of travelling to which you will be put." Scotland is affected by this legislation, and the weather is often very inclement in Scotland, and these are folks who go out in the early morning and do not return until dewy eve. It is no uncommon thing for miners now to travel 8, 10 or 15 miles a day to their work.


What the hon. Member is saying may he very true, but I fail to see how it can affect the question of whether this new Clause should be agreed to or not.


I am trying to get the Committee to understand the position from the point of view of the workers. I want the worker to have the same right as you and I have, Captain Bourne, that if a thing does not suit us we will not do it. Are we to forget that this is the land of the brave and the free? Free Britons. Where are the free Englishmen? Representatives of Parliament may be free; I want the workers to be as free. But we are here taking freedom from them. The right to say whether they will accept a job or not is what is at stake here, and, therefore, I think I am perfectly in order in the line I am taking in trying to safeguard the workers. From the flippant way in which this is being dealt with, one would think there was nothing at stake, but when a man goes to the Employment Exchange the manager will have power to say to him, "You will take a job at Park Head Forge," or "You will take a job at Brown's in Clyde Bank, or Singer's." The man may have no knowledge of the work that is being done there. These men are good tradesmen, not men who are in, work to-day and out of work tomorrow, and yet they could be sent to work at certain places where they would lose all the dignity they possess from the feeling that they are good men at their own job. That is a serious thing, because it is most important for the welfare of the country that our workers should have a good notion of themselves, should have some respect for themselves, and when they know that they will not be able to give a good account of themselves at the job to which they are being sent they have a right to say, "No, this job does not suit me, and I would rather not go." That is a right for which our forefathers fought, and we ought not to surrender it but to safeguard it.

I know perfectly well from my own experience that this will depend on the manager of the Exchange. As far as the managers in the Employment Exchanges in my Division go, I get on very well with them.

Viscountess ASTOR

You would get on with anybody.


We have no Tight to leave the law in that condition. We are-sent here to defend the working-class. The Noble Lady asks me, "Defend them from what?" Defend them from her class.

Viscountess ASTOR

From their leaders.


We are sent here to defend the working-class, and, if we do not do that, we do not do our duty. We are making laws, and we have to make them so that it is not left to an individual to read into them anything other than we wish. We have no right to leave these matters to the good will of any individual. It is trotted out to us that if we could only get the people of good will together we could do wonderful things, but that always pre-supposes that other fellows are of bad will. I do not believe a word of that. All the good will in the world has not saved us from the terrible conditions in which we are to-day.


I still do not quite see how the hon. Member associates his present argument with the proposed new Clause. The effect of the Clause is that if a man is to be offered employment it shall be employment by an employer who has a working agreement with the man's trade union, and that if the employer does not comply with the terms of any agreement recognised by associations of employers and of employés in the trade or industry, that is not suitable employment. The hon. Member is going far outside what the Clause can possibly imply.


You may rest assured, Captain Bourne, that I have no desire to disobey your Ruling. I have made out my case, because you just got up when I was finished. Representing the engineers of Britain, I felt that it was very important, and my duty to state their case. We have been up against those difficulties time and time again. Without further ado, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to have due regard to the facts which I have stated and which are irrefutable. He cannot get over them by merely being nice and pleasant. We cannot get over them by being pleasant; it is not pleasant to the folk upon whose behalf I am speaking. Their Jives are not very pleasant.

8.39 p.m.


I have listened to the Debate, and I was very anxious, before the Parliamentary Secretary replied, to know what his reply would be. An hon. Member behind him, a supporter of the National Government, had spoken on the same lines, indicating that he would like something of the sort proposed in this proposed Clause to be incorporated in the Bill, because of difficulties with which he had met, but that this Clause would not meet the situation. That was the argument put by the Parliamentary Secretary, and it was not open opposition. He indicated a certain amount of sympathy with the principles underlying the Clause, but he indicated that it would not carry out the purpose for which it was designed. I am not quite sure about that. He also indicated that they were trying to grapple with the matter in order to embody the principle with which we are concerned. That does not affect the immediate present.

I am more concerned with getting something into the present Bill as soon as possible, in order to deal with very difficult cases that crop up. As a trade union official, I have been in direct contact with some of the cases affected, and which are ruled out, although, in my opinion, it was never intended that they should be ruled out. The Measure is not sufficiently wide to cover them. The number of those cases is much greater than people imagine. I have had to go to the referees' courts time after time, and there you find that if a man has been sent to an employer to work and the terms of employment are not in accordance with his trade union agreement or such as the district agreements demand, and the man refuses, saying, "I cannot work under these conditions," in nine cases out of ten—I do not think that I am exaggerating—the employer, when asked to make a statement, takes refuge by marking the man's papers, "Stopped owing to misconduct." That happens in nearly every case, and it is the most difficult to prove to the satisfaction of the referees' court that the man has not been guilty of misconduct. The onus of proof is always put upon the man. The employer generally gets away with it. In a good many cases, if the employer is asked to substantiate what he has said, he contents himself with repeating what he formerly said, or refuses to say anything more about it. He is not compelled to go to the court and give evidence in support of his statement that he put upon the paper. Unless the workers have with them to put their case expert persons who have full knowledge of the agreements of the districts, in the majority of cases the man or woman concerned is at a very great disadvantage. That is why I am particularly anxious that something shall be put into the Bill.


The hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Paling) has made a very interesting contribution to the Debate. I would like him to elaborate the point a little further. He stated what happens before the referees when an employer has said that a man has been guilty of misconduct, and the employer refuses to substantiate his accusation. I assume that in every one of those cases the man is allowed benefit. I am not certain, but, if the man has no expert advice, he would be very anxious. I wonder if the hon. Member would quote a case? It is very serious.


I will give one or two general cases to illustrate the point. If there is any sympathy for our claim on the part of the National Government or their supporters, any question as to whether the words on the paper meet the situation ought not to prevent the Government from putting in something that does meet the situation. The Parliamentary Secretary has asked me to substantiate. Let me give him a case in point that is happening now. Machinery has come into the pits—


Will the hon. Member answer the two points that I put to him?


I am coming to that. Machinery has come into the pits, and there is now a great tendency on the part of employers to make men work overtime, as we think in contravention of our agreements. If a man finds that he is expected to work overtime on the conveyors or the machine face, and if, thinking it is in contravention of the agreement between the union and the employers, he refuses to do so, he is probably stopped, and in cases like that he has the greatest difficulty in proving that he has been stopped genuinely because it was his belief that, if he had kept on working, he would have been contravening the existing agreement.

To give another case, there is in operation in pits, not only in Yorkshire but in various other counties, a system known as the butty system—a sort of subcontract system. The trade unions, after years of labour and effort and toil, eventually succeeded in breaking down the system and getting an agreement, but there have been cases here and there where individual men have been sent to work under that system. If they did so, they would have actually earned more wages than if they had stuck to the agreement, but they would have been breaking a distinct agreement, and in such cases, if they refuse to work, and if something is put on their papers stating, not that they have refused to break an agreement, but some other reason—generally, as I have said, misconduct—in those cases they have the greatest difficulty in proving their case unless they have someone to represent them. Again, a case came under my notice last week in which a motor employer wanted his employé to work overtime on a Saturday. There is a general agreement—I do not know the terms precisely—that after certain hours and under certain conditions overtime rates shall be paid. This employer would not pay the overtime rate, and the man in question was stopped and did not get his benefit; he has been disqualified for six weeks, but an appeal is pending.

That is another instance of what is happening in this direction. A further one, which has arisen recently, is in connection with the method of alteration of work in a pit. It was agreed between the men and the colliery company concerned that the coal should be got by a particular method, but the colliery company suddenly wanted it got by another method. They were prepared to pay the standard rate of wages and work the ordinary hours, but it would have been against the local agreement made between men and masters. The men refused, and were stopped. They eventually got their pay, but we had the greatest difficulty in proving their case. The difficulty is generally due to the fact that usually only two things are recognised by the court of referees—whether the agreed rates of wages are paid, and whether the hours are in accordance with the agreement. All other questions besides these two are generally very difficult to prove before the courts of referees, and we feel that, if the Bill stated definitely that other considerations which may be incorporated in agreements are included besides wages and hours, it would make the position of most of these people who have to go before courts of referees much easier than it has been in the past, or is now, or can possibly be while the Act remains as it is.

8.51 p.m.


I do not want to delay the Committee, but the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Paling) has, probably unconsciously, made some very serious charges in the course of his speech. Briefly, the effect of them is that, under the law as it stands at present, the courts of referees do not give a man substantial justice. I asked the hon. Member two specific questions. He did not answer them, but went on to give some mere impressions. He has not given a single specific case of what he alleges. He stated that he had a number of cases in which men had had difficulty in getting unemployment benefit, but went on to say that the unemployment benefit was allowed. What, then, is his complaint? There is nothing in the Bill that prevents substantial justice being done to a man, even on the hon. Member's own showing, because the man has got his benefit. The hon. Member went on to suggest that, when a man came before a court of referees, the employer, instead of admitting that he had been breaking an agreement, accused the man of misconduct. I asked him if he could give me a case. The normal procedure of the court of referees, sitting in a judicial capacity, is that, if the employer makes an accusation and does not support it, the court naturally gives the man the benefit of the doubt, and allows him benefit.

The hon. Member has had much more practical experience of courts of referees than I have, and he knows perfectly well that, so far as the miners of this country are concerned, they are very well represented before the courts of referees, and do not suffer at all from the way in which their cases are handled. Moreover, not only have members of trade unions the advantage of being able to be represented by officials before the courts of referees, with the right of appeal, but the ordinary non-unionist equally has his case reviewed by an independent statutory authority, namely, the insurance officer, who goes through the verdict of the court of referees with great care, and whose duty it is, so far as he can, to see that no miscarriage of justice takes place; and, if he thinks there is any doubt, the matter is placed before the Umpire. I honestly think, so far as I have been able to make out, that the hon. Member has no case at all of injustice having actually been done. It is a matter of apprehension, no doubt, but I have not heard any actual case quoted in which it can be suggested that the law as it stands to-day causes any real injustice, and I think I showed in my earlier speech that, whatever might be the desire of hon. Members, the actual wording of the Clause is faulty. I went on to say that, while we thoroughly agree that agreements are desirable, those agreements should in our opinion contain their own sanction, and that such sanction ought not to be applied through an Unemployment Insurance Bill. If it is right to have proper sanctions, let there be proper sanctions, but let us not use a Bill like this for the purpose of applying them.

8.54 p.m.


With regard to the question of piece-work and piece-workers, I have been intimately interested in an industry which has recognised in the past, not only time work, but in a certain degree piece-work as well, and, while the wording of this proposed new Clause may appear to be faulty, it would seem to me,

as I read it, to cover a point which gives rise to great trouble, particularly in the furniture industry in Scotland. Hitherto in Scotland we have countenanced a certain amount of departure from time conditions. In some of the shops piece-work conditions are applied. This is under cover of a specific agreement. There are shops which conform to this new departure which are not in the Masters' Federation, yet they speak reasonably and honourably of the arrangement. The arrangement is that piece conditions in the shop shall be determined by a repetition job being performed by three different average men or, failing that, on three different occasions by the same man.

We find that there are establishments which do not apply this regulation, or agreement, but are inclined to indulge in the practice of having a man who receives special consideration and arrangements in the shop which permit him to claim that the piece conditions allow him the time rate to be made by the average men. In point of fact, when persons are sent there by the exchanges, they find, and generally know before they go, if they do go, that the piece conditions are arbitrary conditions made by the employer before they enter the shop, and, naturally, they fail to come up to the expectation that they held when they entered of making the time rate and so conforming to the general conditions applied even by unorganised employers in the district. This would appear to me to help the efforts that are being made not only on behalf of trade unions but in protection of the employers to off-set this bad type of employer who takes advantage. There is one other point with regard to the type of shop which indulges in this practice. We have seen men who have gone into shops of this type, and, having been there, and that being the last point of employment, good shops have refused to take them because of the stigma attaching itself to men who have been in shops of this type. There are specific cases the details of which can be proved.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time".

The Committee divided: Ayes, 52; Noes, 234.

Daggar, George John, William Parkinson, John Allen
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Pickering, Ernest H.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Kirkwood, David Rathbone, Eleanor
Dobble, William Lawson, John James Rea, Walter Russell
Edwards, Charles Leonard, William Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick Smith, Tom (Normanton)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Logan, David Gilbert Thorne, William James
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) Lunn, William Tinker, John Joseph
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) McEntee, Valentine L. White, Henry Graham
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Grundy, Thomas W. Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd) Mander, Geoffrey le M. Wood, sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Harris, Sir Percy Maxton, James Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Hicks, Ernest George Milner, Major James TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Jenkins, Sir William Paling, Wilfred Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. Groves.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Martin, Thomas B.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Glossop, C. W. H. Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Gluckstein, Louis Halle Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Apsley, Lord Gower, Sir Robert Meller, Sir Richard James
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rPd. N.) Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)
Atholl, Duchess of Greene, William P. C. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Baille, Sir Adrian W. M. Grenfell, E. C. (City of London) Milne, Charles
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Grimston, R. V. Mitcheson, G. G.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Gritten, W. G. Howard Melson, A. Hugh Elsdale
Balniel, Lord Gunston, Captain D. W. Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Guy, J. C. Morrison Moreing, Adrian C.
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.) Hales, Harold K. Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)
Belt, Sir Alfred L. Hammersley, Samuel S. Morrison, William Shepherd
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.
Borodale, Viscount Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n) Munro, Patrick
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Nunn, William
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. O'Donovan, Dr. William James
Brass, Captain Sir William Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Peake, Captain Osbert
Broadbent, Colonel John Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Peat, Charles U.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Hepworth, Joseph Penny, Sir George
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y) Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Perkins, Walter R. D.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Holdsworth, Herbert Petherick, M.
Burghley, Lord Hornby, Frank Pike, Cecil F.
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Horsbrugh, Florence Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Burnett, John George Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.) Pownall, Sir Assheton
Butt, Sir Alfred Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Procter, Major Henry Adam
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Hume, Sir George Hopwood Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Carver, Major William H. Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring) Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Rankin, Robert
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H. Rawson, Sir Cooper
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leotric Jesson, Major Thomas E. Reid, David D. (County Down)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton) Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Conant, R. J. E. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Remer, John R.
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Cranborne, Viscount Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles Montrose) Roberts, Aied (Wrexham)
Crooke, J. Smedley Latham, Sir Herbert Paul Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecciesall)
Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Law Sir Alfred Ropner, Colonel L.
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro) Leckie, J. A. Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Ross, Ronald D.
Cross, R.H
Crossley, A. C. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Lewis, Oswald Runge, Norah Cecil
Culverwell, Cyril Tom Liddall, Walter S. Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil) Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Dickie, John P. Lindsay, Noel Ker Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Dower, Captain A. V. G. Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest Salt, Edward W.
Drewe, Cedric Llewellin, Major John J. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Duckworth, George A. V. Lloyd, Geoffrey Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Savery, Samuel Servington
Duggan, Hubert John Loftus, Pierce C. Scone, Lord
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Selley, Harry R.
Dunglass, Lord Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Elmley, Viscount Lyons, Abraham Montagu Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Emrys-Evans, P. V. MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick) Shaw, Captain William T. (Fortar)
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool) McKie, John Hamilton Skelton, Archibald Noel
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Waller D.
Ford, Sir Patrick J. McLean, Major Sir Alan Somerset, Thomas
Fox, Sir Gifford McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Somervell, Sir Donald
Fremantle, Sir Francis Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Fuller, Captain A. G. Maitland, Adam Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Ganzonl, Sir John Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Soper, Richard
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.